Whispering Willows is a side-scrolling adventure. It does have its horror elements (and a few "EEK!" moments) but overall this is a game of exploration and story-discovery.
Options include choice of Controls (I used the default), separate sliders for Sound Effects and Music, a slider for brightness (
we can choose how environmentally dark we want it!), Language, Fullscreen/Windowed, Screen Resolution, and Graphics Quality.
All of the controls are given to you as you play but I'll list them here for you, anyway
The default controls are as follows: Arrow keys or W-A-S-D for movement, E for Inventory, Q to switch to your astral form, Esc. for Menu or Cancel, and Space or Enter to interact with things.
Since the gameplay is exploration-based, the devs chose not to add a running ability... but they changed their minds after getting feedback from the fans. You can run when you are OUTSIDE ONLY by holding down the Shift key.
You CAN miss things if you don't take the time to explore everywhere -- don't make assumptions that what looks like a dead-end is actually
a dead-end! For the most part, you won't be able to miss things, however. Any time your character touches something important, you'll get a pop-up at the top of the screen telling you to hit the Space key to pick it up, possess it, move it, or whatever interaction is necessary at the time. You can look at your inventory at any time, but you don't actually need to -- all inventory items are automatically used when you need them.
The story is told via notes and letters that you find as you explore. I recommend reading them immediately, and you can do so by hitting the Esc key when you find them (the game will tell you that every time you find one of them
) If you're not sure which character wrote the letter, just hit the Esc key -- you'll see the newest note's name highlighted. ie. William Wortham 3/15.
As you explore you will discover and -- in your spectral form -- be able to talk to the many ghosts that populate the grounds, as well as "possess" items for a short time and squeeze through small openings. Although these openings have little sparkles around them, I *still* managed to miss a couple
Another way to notice those small areas is to switch to your spirit form. When you get near one, you'll switch from your full-form to a little bluish flame.
So how do you know when to switch forms? You are wearing an amulet, and when it starts to glow, you know that you are getting near a ghost. Otherwise, you just need to keep an eye out for small spaces, and things that don't quite look right.
You might think that being a side-scroller, there would not be much depth to your environment, and you'd be wrong
There are multiple layers to every area you visit, not just "front" and "behind". My preferred method of play is to fully explore an area before going through any doors or going up/down stairs, but that's not necessarily what works best in this case. 'Nuff said
You CAN die
in a few spots, but luckily you won't have to re-do much, as the automatic saves are well-spaced. Survival is not dependent on reflexes, it's all about patience and/or moving your character to the right place.
Overall, I enjoyed the game, and think it was definitely worth playing. It's bundled with a bunch of other games at Groupees right now, and you can get them all for $5 HERE